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Religious Associations and Membership Contract

02 October 2020
Élise Rouméas
Élise Rouméas

Dr. Élise Rouméas investigates the ability of members of religious organisations to leave their community should they want to do so. Some individuals who have given years of work and/or donated assets to religious organisations, later find themself deprived of opportunities to start a new life elsewhere. The state should do something to help them. If the state regulates divorce, the end of a marital relationship, and resignation/dismissal, the end of an employment relationship, why not regulate the end of a "spiritual" relationship?

Rouméas advocates the use of membership contracts. Religious organisations should issue these to members working for, residing in or donating money to the organisation under a regime of legal exemptions. These contracts will publicise the right of exit and offer a base for negotiating and contesting exit terms. They will make exit more feasible for members and help tackle unreasonable economic costs.

In the future, this topic could expand to different organisations. Currently, the discussion mainly revolves around religious and cultural groups but it also concerns marriage, the market and even the state. The idea is simple: individuals should not be coerced in remaining in associations that undermine their autonomy. People are not always free to join associations - they can be born into them or are forced into them by circumstances for example -  but they should always be free to leave. Exit should be feasible and the state should intervene to minimise exit costs.

Freedom of dissociation is defined as the right to end an association without any excessive undue costs. This definition encompasses both chosen and unchosen exits, resignation and dismissal. Rouméas aims to develop a noval account of freedom of dissociation, construed as the “right to a fair exit”.

Dr. Élise Rouméas works as an Assistant Professor in Political Philosophy and Leadership at Campus Fryslân. Her paper 'Enabling Exit: Religious Associations and Membership Contract' is online available.

Last modified:02 October 2020 12.42 p.m.

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